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New resolution to end Shores ‘mansionization’

A resolution is making its way through local government that may help to curb what some are calling the “mansionization” of La Jolla Shores.

A rewrite of the city’s land development code that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2000 includes specific limitations on the size of homes that can be built in La Jolla Shores, but those limitations have gone unenforced, according to the main proponent of the resolution, Rob Whittemore. The rewrite that went into effect in 2000 applied underlying citywide base zones to areas such as La Jolla Shores that were already governed by a planned district ordinance, but the change was never put into practice by local planning groups or at the city’s Development Services Department, Whittemore said.

“This law has been on the books for over six years and should be applied,” he said.

Base zoning laws that were created in San Diego in the 1950s set specific guidelines for home building that included limitations on floor area ratio, which is the size of a structure in relation to the lot upon which it is built. For lots between 5,000 and 10,000 square feet, the maximum floor area ratio was set at .6, meaning that the maximum size of a home on a 5,000 square foot lot would be 3,000 square feet. The zoning laws also set guidelines for setbacks, which specify how far back a home most be built from the edge of its lot.

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In 1974, La Jollans created the La Jolla Shores planned district ordinance, which attempted to regulate development through more judgemental terms such as mandating that homes be built with a rambling silhouette and that the neighborhood should strive for variety in its development but with a sense of unity.

“In 1974 we said, ‘Let’s just go on these general, more discretionary ideas for the neighborhood,” Whittemore said.

The motion that Whittemore has already brought before the La Jolla Shores Association asks that the City Attorney require the Development Services Department to apply the existing base zone regulations, including floor area ratio and setback requirements, in addition to the planned district ordinance. The La Jolla Town Council unanimously approved the resolution on March 8 and the La Jolla Shores Association approved it by an 8-1-1 vote on March 14. Whittemore will bring the motion before the La Jolla Community Planning Association at its meeting on April 5 at 6:30 p.m. at La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Prospect St.

Whittemore said that when the rewrite of the city’s land development code took effect in 2000, the La Jolla Shores planned district ordinance incorporated chapter 13 of the code, which includes base zone floor area ratio and setback requirements.

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“The La Jolla Shores PDO specifically states, ‘We hereby incorporate chapter 13 of the land development code’ - that includes base zones,” Whittemore said.

Sherri Lightner, president of the La Jolla Shores Association, supported Whittemore’s motion.

“It seems to be the correct analysis,” Lightner said.

Whittemore, who is a newly elected trustee of the La Jolla Community Planning Association and former president of La Jolla Town Council, said he discussed the matter with former deputy city attorney Douglas Humphries in December of last year. Humphries said that he would look into the matter but that the city is due to review every planned district ordinance in the city over the next three to five years.

“He said maybe we can clarify this during that review process,” Whittemore said. “I said, ‘No, you’ve been incorrect about this for six years, you’ve got to apply it now.’ ”

Humphries has since left the city attorney’s office, but Whittemore said that Humphries told him his analysis was correct.

Whittemore’s motion will go before the La Jolla Community Planning Association before possibly moving on to the city level. Whittemore said it is important that the law be applied now because it would affect a number of projects that are currently making their way through the planning process.

“It affects a number of projects,” Whittemore said. “There are people coming in with homes with FARs of .8.”

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Lightner agreed that there are currently projects in the pipeline that would not pass muster if the base zone regulations were applied.

“The CPA just approved a point-8,” she said.